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at one time satisfies me that the young birds of the year bear their part in the concert, and the fact of every individual in view trilling forth its notes, favours the idea that the female bird is possessed of song. When the ground has been covered with snow, of more than a week's continuance at mid-winter, and the sun did not break forth all day, I have heard several singing, and answering eaoh other as at a more genial season :—a wild bird, too, has been observed to wash, at such a time as in summer. All this would indicate a seeming indifference to cold, of which we, however, know these birds to be very susceptible, leaving as they do various continental countries, on the approach of winter, and betaking themselves to milder climates. In snares, set for small birds during frost, I have remarked that redbreasts were generally the first victims. Their extreme tameness before a fall of snow, unerringly shows their sensibility to the coming change, and in several instances has led me to prognosticate it with certainty, when no other indication was perceptible.
That a single redbreast, or a pair of these birds, has generally a particular beat or range I have had abundant evidence, (vide Dovaston in Loudon's Mag. Nat. Hist. vol. vi. p. 3,) as I have also had, that they very frequently keep within it as spring advances, instead of retiring to the thickest woods to build, as stated by many authors. In towns, they have been known to me as frequenting a certain quarter throughout the year. For two years this occurred in our own office-houses, and in each season two broods were reared. In one instance the nest was placed on the top of a wall supporting the roof of the gateway, and in the other, on the part of the side-wall of a three-story building, the only approach to it being through small apertures, about two inches in diameter, cut in trap-doors on the first and second floors to admit the rope attached to a pulley. Perched on the neighbouring buildings, these birds gave forth their song, and for about the latter half of the month of October, 1831, when the days were very fine and bright, one regularly frequented the stable, and, when perched upon the stalls, sang without being in any degree disturbed by the general business of the place going forward, even
VOL. I. M
within two or three feet of his station. A pair of redbreasts that were assiduously watched during their nidification in the conservatory attached to the town-house of an acquaintance, were one morning found in great consternation, in consequence of their nest having been taken possession of by a bat, which they eventually compelled to change its quarters. The number of eggs is not uncommonly five; rarely more.
Four rather singular instances of the redbreast building within doors near Belfast in the summer of 1833 here follow. In all of them, shrubberies and plantations were quite near to the chosen sites. The first two, communicated by a relative, occurred at Wolf-hill. He observes:—" The two nests of a robin in the carpenter's loft are placed on the corner of the wall supporting the roof; the foundation that serves for both nests, is a quantity of large wood-shavings, of which the sides of the nests are likewise formed, together with green moss, beech leaves, wool, tufts of cowhair, &c, but they are lined with horse-hair only. The mass of materials of which these two nests are made, is about a foot and a half in length, eight inches in breadth, and five inches in thickness. In wet days the male bird kept much within the loft, and sang there. The carpenter tells me that only one of them collected the leaves and shavings: this individual was known from its wanting the tail; it made very free with his pot of grease, and picked from it while in his hand: a brood was reared in one of these nests, but two eggs laid in the other were not incubated. On another occasion the nest was built in the joist-hole of a wall, in course of erection, the completion of which made the removal of the nest unavoidable, and it was placed in an adjoining aperture of the same kind. The parent bird after looking for some time about the spot where the nest had been, rejoined her young, one of which was killed by falling out of its domicile in the course of removal; and here she did not long remain undisturbed, as in the breaking out of a door within a foot of the nest, the mortar and stones fell perilously near her, but she nevertheless did not desert her young."
At Fort William, the seat of a relative, the following circumstance occurred. In a pantry, the window of which was kept open during the day, one of these birds constructed its nest early in the summer. The place selected was the corner of a moderately high shelf among pickle bottles, which being four-sided, gave the nest the singular appearance of a perfect square. It was made of green moss, and lined with a little black hair; on the one side which was exposed to view, and that only, were dead beech-leaves. When any article near the nest was sought for by the housekeeper, the bird instead of flying out of the window, as might have been expected, alighted on the floor, and waited there patiently until the cause of disturbance was over, when it immediately returned to its nest. Five eggs were laid, which, after having been incubated without success for the long period of about five weeks, were forsaken. The room above this pantry was occupied as a birdstuffing apartment; after the redbreast had deserted the lower story, a bird of this species,—doubtless the same individual,— visited it daily, and was as often expelled. My friend finding its expulsion of no avail, for it continued to return, had recourse to a novel and rather comical expedient. Having a short time before received a collection of stuffed Asiatic quadrupeds, he selected the most fierce-looking Carnivora, and placed them at the open window, which they nearly filled up, hoping that their formidable aspect, might deter the bird from future ingress. It was not, however, to be so frighted "from its propriety," but made its entree as usual. The walls of the room, the tables in it, and nearly the entire floor were occupied by these stuffed quadrupeds. The perseverance of the robin was at length rewarded by a free permission to have its own way, when, as if in defiance of the ruse that was practised against it, the place chosen for the nest was the head of a shark, which hung on the wall, (the mouth being gagged may have prevented its being the site); while the tail, &c, of an "alligator stuff'd" served to screen it from observation. During the operation of forming this nest, the redbreast did not in the least regard the presence of my friend: but both man and bird worked away within a few feet of each other. On the 1st of June I saw it seated on the eggs, which were five in number: they were all productive, and the whole brood in due time escaped in safety.
Two ladies at Lame, believing that a robin, which they fed at the window-sill, was disposed to nidify, placed a box within the porch of their house, for its accommodation. The kind act was at once understood and appreciated by the bird, which built its nest, and reared its brood in the box. The ladies so far assisted in providing building materials, as to pull hairs out of an old chair cover; the robin flew regularly for these, and with them the nest was wholly lined. That the noisy operations of the ship-builder will not prevent the selection of a place for nidification, in his immediate vicinity was shown by a circumstance which came under my own observation. On May 13th, 1836, I saw a redbreast's nest, containing young, in a small round aperture apparently where a knot had been in one of the timbers of the ship "Dunlop," then under repair in the dry dock at Belfast. It was built inside the vessel about three yards from the top of the timbers, (the deck being off,) and at the time of its construction, the deafening process of driving in the tree-nails was carried forward occasionally close to the nest. An observant friend, discovering a redbreast's nest, remarked the apparent stupidity of the bird, which having been lifted off the eggs and laid on his open hand, sought not, and indeed seemed to want the power, to escape. He placed it in the nest again, and returning the next day found the young brood out. The appearance of the bird on the previous day, it was now presumed, had been caused by its intentness on the last stage of incubation. I have seen young robins flying about Belfast on the 12th of May. In the very early spring of 1846, a nest with eggs was discovered in the vicinity of that town, on the 20th of February.
A note of February 18th, 1838, reminds me that a young robin of the year, which was caught late in the preceding autumn, and kept for some time in a large cage at the Falls, in company with other birds, made its escape, but, on the appearance of snow, two months afterwards, returned, when it gladly renewed its acquaintance with the lady of the house, and a servant, both of whom had been in the habit of feeding it,—the bird at once markedly exhibited its former partiality towards them, in preference to the other inmates of the house. It sang in a low tone, and never burst forth into full song but once,—"a song of triumph,"—justafter it had nearly killed a blue tit-mouse, its companion in captivity.
Well known as is the pugnacity of robins, one or two instances may be given. Their being so wholly absorbed during combat as to be regardless of all else, was ludicrously evinced at Springvale, by a pair fighting from the air downwards to the earth, until they disappeared in a man's hat, that happened to be lying on the ground, and in which they were both captured. On one occasion two of these birds caught fighting in a yard in Belfast were kept all night in separate cages. One was given its liberty early in the morning, and the other being tamer—possibly from having been the better beaten of the two—was kept with the intention of being permanently retained. So unhappy, however, did the prisoner look, that it too was set at liberty in the yard, which was believed to be its chosen domicile. The other came a second time, and attacked it, when my informant who was present, hastened to the rescue, and the wilder bird flew away. The tamer one was again caught, and brought into the house for safety. The intruder was now driven out of the premises, and in the evening, when it was expected that he was in a different locality, the other bird was turned out; its wicked and pertinacious antagonist, however, still lay in wait, a third time attacked, and then killed it:—the tame bird, though the inferior of the other in strength, always "joined issue" with it, and fought to the best of its poor ability. Some years ago, at Merville (co. Antrim), a robin kept possession of the green-house, and killed every intruder of its own species, amounting to about two dozen, that entered the house. This had been so frequently done, that my informant became curious to know the means resorted to for the purpose; and on examination of two or three of the victims, he found a deep wound in the neck of each, evidently made by the bill of the slayer. The lady of the house hearing of the bird's cruelty, had the sharp point of its beak cut off, and no more of its hrethren were afterwards slaughtered; but it did not itself long survive this slight